School is almost out…But bus safety is still in

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It’s something Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington is going to stress – stop up to 30 feet away when you see a school bus loading or unloading kids, slow down in school zones, and put down your cell phones during school zones.

Students here in Bossier Parish have just a few weeks of school remaining, but safety remains at the forefront of the Bossier Sheriff’s Office and school officials.   We understand motorists are often in a hurry to get to work in the morning or run afternoon errands, but the safety of our children at bus stops is critical.  

Bossier Sheriff’s Office has received complaints from some in our community who say that motorists are passing a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children. 

A Bossier Parish student exits a school bus. (Courtesy of Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office)

Our patrol and traffic deputies, along with our School Resource Officers, take this matter very seriously and want all motorists to not only slow it down and put down the cell phones in school zones, but to be just as vigilant when traveling around the parish and you see the emergency lights of a yellow bus ahead.

Let’s take a quick review of what Louisiana law says with regards to the responsibility of a motorist when it comes to approaching school buses loading and unloading children.  Louisiana Revised Statute 32:80 discusses “Overtaking and passing school buses.”

Responsibility of Motorists

  • On an undivided roadway – upon meeting from any direction a school bus that has stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading children, a motorist should stop their vehicle not less than 30 feet from the school bus that has activated visual signals.
  • On separated roadways – upon meeting or passing a school bus which has its activated visual signals that is on a different roadway, motorists do not need to stop.
  • On a highway with one lane in each direction AND a dedicated two-way left-turn lane – this is not considered a divided highway.
  • In a designated school zone – put the cell phone down!  LRS 32:300.8 says the use of wireless telecommunications devices in school zones is prohibited.  There are exceptions for emergency situations, but having your cell phone out for calling, texting, reading or posting to social media while in a school zone is against the law.

Responsibility of School Buses/Drivers

  • School buses should be equipped with visual signs and signals, to include flashing yellow and red lights and extended stop signs to the side.
  • School bus drivers should activate their signal lamps between 100 and 500 feet before their actual stop, and upon stopping, activate their side stop signs.
  • School bus drivers will stop at all railroad crossings.
  • School buses should have the lettering, “SCHOOL BUS” in black letters not less than eight inches in height placed as high as possible on the bus.
  • School bus drivers are authorized to notify the Bossier Sheriff’s Office about any such violations of school bus safety.

Dave Hadden, Director of Transportation for Bossier Parish Schools, shared a recent survey conducted by school bus drivers.  On April 5, 202 of the 231 bus operators in Bossier Parish participated in an Illegal Passing Survey, in which bus drivers were to “report only illegal passes that occur while the bus driver is stopped with red warning lights flashing and stop arm(s) deployed in full compliance with our state training and procedures.”

Survey results showed that 48 bus drivers reported at least one Stop Arm violation.  In total, there were 116 total Stop Arm violations in which motorists drove past the busses while the Stop Arms were extended and the red lights were flashing.

This is concerning for Bossier Parish Schools and Sheriff Whittington.

“We know folks are often in a hurry to get to work, go out and about, or head home when they on the roadways,” said Sheriff Whittington.  “But the safety of our children is well worth motorists taking the extra time during a school zone or when the buses are loading or off-loading.  Slow it down and get off your cell phones when in a school zone, and stop within 30 feet of a bus that is picking up or dropping off kids.  Not only are bus drivers watching…so are my deputies.  Please keep it safe.”